Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
IV. Inevitable
Three Poems
i. The Flute
By Florence Randal Livesay (1874–1953)
 
Translated from the Ukrainian of Fedkovich

THE MIDNIGHT fire flickers,
The embers slowly dying;
The father sits at the table,
Heavily, sadly thinking.
The mother, too, sits quiet,        5
Sending swift prayers to Heaven.
Her heart is filled with grief,
But she knows not words to tell it.
The sisters finish their sewing
By the light of the kahanetz.        10
 
The brother has sought a corner
To pipe sad tunes on a flute.
He plays on the flute of Ivan,
Ivan who serves the Czar.
Suddenly, with a heart-cry,        15
He stops his sad, sweet playing:
‘Ivan, Ivan, it sounds not!
Thy famous tunes are silent!
Where, O where art thou living
And how does my brother fare?’        20
 
Brushing away his tears,
He placed his flute near the rafters;
Quietly leaving the room
He went to sleep in the stable;
That he might talk with the bay        25
Concerning Ivan, his brother.
 
And on the hot sands of Italy,
On the green grass lies a soldier,
Shot, awaiting death, alone, alone,
As a leaf in desert sands!        30
Only the moon is shining—
Above him the proud juniper
Her buds flings outward.
 
And he lies thinking, thinking—
Dreaming of his home,        35
Bidding good-bye to father,
To mother, brother, and sisters.
‘Adieu, adieu, Kateryna,
With thine undying love,
With thy so sweet affection!        40
Adieu, my golden weapons,
Adieu, my bay in the stable,
That carried me to dances,
That knew my heart’s deep secrets!’
 
Then, low and faint in the distance,        45
There reached his ears, uncertain,
The sounds of sweet flute-piping.
They drifted into silence….
The soldier’s head has fallen,
The stars have faded away.        50
 
On Sunday in the village
Gather Ivan’s companions:
‘Brothers, come let us play it,
The famous flute of Ivan’s!’
How vain were all their efforts!        55
’Twas dumb, as dumb as ever.
 
And on the hot sands of Italy,
Under the boughs of the juniper tree,
What does he dream, Ivan?
Does he dream of the bay,        60
Or of Kateryna?
 
 
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